This hippie biker, shoulder length hair and a beard uncut for several months, pulled his semi-chopped Honda 750 with an Easy Rider paint scheme, into a parking spot at a Howard Johnson in Massachusetts,as a family with a dad and mom and 5 year old boy pulled alongside in a sedan. They struck up a conversation, intrigued by a trip with no set destination, just a desire to see America, so they asked me to join them inside.
“Where do you stay at night?” prompted my response of throwing a sleeping bag down in a rest area or campground.
He quickly turned to his wife with a question, then turned back, “It looks like more rain tonight, would you like to spend the night with us? It’s dry, and you get a hot meal!”
I liked that idea, and they asked about my plans, “Well, I teach school and have a degree in history, so I want to explore the Boston area. Lexington, Concord, Walden Pond, the USS Constitution. Boston played such a key role in starting our nation.”
Once more he turned to his wife, this time with a longer and quieter personal discussion. “Please, think about staying with us, we live just outside Boston. Use our house as a jumping off point. We’d love to have you for meals, but don’t feel you have to be here.”
The next morning he left for work, leaving his wife and child alone with a long haired hippie Easy Rider type. That blew me away. Whether or not they followed Jesus, they practiced some radical hospitality. Was that wise, or biblical, or should we use caution? Before we say they got too involved in risky business, let’s check it out, with open minds.
“Be ready with a meal or a bed when it’s needed. Why, some have extended hospitality to angels without ever knowing it!” (Hebrews 13:2, The Message). Think about the subtext—God sends angels to move among us, and we can’t distinguish them from humans. That guy on the freeway that we cut off because we didn’t want to wait our turn, that supermarket checker that we got rude with—all these and more could be angels.
Yes, hospitality may come with risks, like the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37. The wounded man could have been a decoy, to get him to stop. Bending down to bandage him made him vulnerable. Traveling with the man on his donkey slowed him down, again increasing vulnerability. But he did it. A fellow human had a need and he could help and did.
God doesn’t want us to ignore risks, he told us to evaluate each event (1 Thessalonians 5:21), and my Good Samaritan at Howard Johnson’s consulted his wife, so don’t put others at risk without their agreement.
But following Jesus comes with risks, not safety, according to CS Lewis, “If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don't recommend Christianity.” It’s not always safe to express faith in hospitality, but it is good.
Kick Starting the Application
Before reading this, how strong was your commitment to hospitality? To risky hospitality? Has it changed? Why? Think of a time you passed up a chance to help someone—how do you now feel about it? Think of a time you expressed risky hospitality, how did it work out? What can you do to grow here?